Disclaimer: Sex talk ahead. This is something I’ve never discussed before on Quietly Romantic, but I think we’re adult enough that it can be a topic for us to talk about. Also, I want to make it clear that I’m not advocating or encouraging judgment around any type of behavior. Whether you only have sex in exclusive relationships or you’re having casual sex with many partners…it’s all the same to me. The point of this post is not to judge anybody for whatever sexual activities they may (or may not) be partaking in. Rather, I want to shine some light on the taboos in our culture.
Also, I’ve dropped some swears and F-bombs in this post. I usually try to avoid swearing but this is something I have some strong opinions about.
Let’s talk about sex.
Sex seems to be a squeamish subject in our culture and we have some weird societal taboos about discussing it, as if sex is somehow dirty or unclean. Especially in places such as the “bible-belt” of the United States, sex is mostly not talked about at all except to say…don’t do it.
What good does that do??
When it comes to young adults who are inexperienced with anything sexually related, for example. Wouldn’t it be better if they could freely talk about and ask for help around this kind of stuff? Just because we don’t talk about it doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to have those “urges” anymore. They’re natural. And if young people can’t talk to anyone about it, then they’re just going to do it anyway—without any knowledge of how to do it safely or what the potential repercussions could be.
That doesn’t make things better. That makes things worse!
I believe sex is something that we should talk more openly about. As a society, it’s something that we should have honest discussions about. Keeping it taboo is not doing us any favors. So, I’ll take the first step and talk about myself and what I’ve learned from my very first sexual experience.
I lost my virginity in my late 20’s. That’s older than most people, I’m guessing. You might be wondering…why so late? Was I waiting for some sort of religious reason? Trying to save it for marriage? Actually, it wasn’t either of those. And no, it wasn’t because I “couldn’t get any”, thank-you-very-much. The truth is that it just wasn’t a priority for me. Probably because I was such a nerd.
Here are a few things I learned from my first sexual experience.
The concept of virginity is a bigger deal than it really ought to be
Growing up, I heard a lot of messages about sex. Most of them were overwhelmingly negative. It was basically this scene from Mean Girls.
Back in my high school biology class, one of our homework assignments was to research STDs and to learn about the negative health effects of each of them. They hammered it home that abstinence was the only, 100% way to avoid becoming pregnant and/or catching any sort of STD. In health class, they even went so far as to bring in guest speakers who had AIDS to scare us into not having sex. The speakers explained that taking their medications was like “trying to swallow a handful of razor blades”. That was fun.
(On the other hand, my little sister tells me she got the cool teacher who stretched a condom over his entire head to prove that it’s impossible to be “too big” to wear one. I wish I got that teacher!)
So, I was led to believe that holding on to your virginity was a really big freaking deal. That you were somehow “pure” if you were a virgin and that sexual activity was somehow “dirty”. After doing it for the first time, I learned that all of that was just a load of BS. Seriously! I hate the idea that I’ve somehow “lost my virginity”. After I did it for the first time, I honestly don’t feel like I’ve “lost” anything. The concept of being a virgin is seriously a bunch of bullshit.
What I find disturbing is the idea of sexual “purity”. It seems like such an innocuous phrase on the surface, but it actually has some Grade-A messed up connotations. To illustrate this, try to think of the things that we might describe using the word “pure”. Minerals are “pure”. Water is “pure”. Dogs are “pure”. Objects and animals are “pure”. Those are the categories that we lump people–especially women–into when we say they have sexual “purity”. It’s a subtle form of dehumanization and it turns women into “damaged goods” if they’ve slept with someone in the past.
What the actual FUCK, society?!
Finally, I sometimes see men freaking out about whether being a virgin at their age is going to be a turn-off for women. Some guys worry about being a virgin in their 30’s. Or their 20’s. Or even at 18 (seriously??) Really, it’s not that freaking big a deal. It’s about as meaningful in real life as your Halo K/D ratio. So, don’t hire a hooker or sleep with a random person just for the sake of losing your virginity. Nothing is going to be different just because you’ve turned in your V-card.
“Sexual compatibility” CAN be improved despite what society seems to think
Here’s another frustrating idea that I see thrown around a lot—especially as an argument against waiting for marriage (“You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive.”) If you marry someone and you don’t have that sexual chemistry, you’re basically screwed. You’re stuck with bad sex forever and there’s no possible way that you two can get better at pleasing each other. Ever.
Yeah, that never made sense to me.
Throughout all of history, people of many different backgrounds have been coming together and having successful relationships. People of different personalities, different cultures, different faiths, different colors, and even different (or the same) gender combinations have happy relationships together. Sure, their differences can get in the way but they learn to overcome them as a team. Sometimes those differences can even make them stronger. But when it comes to sexual compatibility, that’s somehow completely immutable? You’re either compatible or you’re not? And if you’re not, there’s no way to overcome that? Ever?
Now that’s complete BS!
So, what happens if you are seemingly mismatched sexually? You solve the problem together just as you would any other problem. Together as a team. As Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figure-out-able” (and as Professor Layton says, “Every puzzle has an answer”.) In fact, this is an important skill to develop in a relationship exactly because sexual compatibility is not immutable. Sure, you might have amazing sexual chemistry today…but life has a funny tendency to get in the way. You get that promotion and have to work more hours. Kids appear and start demanding more of your time. There are more obligations to fulfill and more people that need rescuing. Suddenly, the same things that were turn-ons to her yesterday are now simply annoying to her today.
What will you do then? Are you prepared to handle that? To work together as a team? Or are you simply going to berate her for the lack of sex? Some good resources are books such as The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski.
Our concept of “sexual experience” is also completely ass-backwards
Another thing. If you sleep with 15 different people in one month then you’re considered more “sexually experienced” than someone who sleeps with one exclusive partner for 15 months. What’s up with that?? It makes even less sense if you stop to consider that the person in the exclusive relationship is probably getting way more sex than the person who casually sleeps around.
This especially falls apart if you compare it to job hunting. The job candidate who worked at one job for 15 months looks much better than the candidate who worked at 15 jobs for one month.
Also, why are women considered “sluts” if they have had a high number of partners but men are more “manly” if they sleep with many people? Don’t give me that fucking “key” analogy. Men are not keys and women are not locks. That’s just stupid.
What a first time is really like
There’s a weird idea that your first time is supposed to be magical. Something you’ll remember forever. Often young women are encouraged to save it for marriage for precisely this reason.
The first time that you do anything sucks. When you ride a bike for the first time without training wheels, you probably didn’t get very far without falling off. When you played Super Mario Bros for the first time, that Goomba at the start of 1-1 probably got you. By definition, the first time you do anything is terrible. Why should sex be any different??
When it comes to first time sex, there’s a lot of technical difficulties, a lot of interacting with things you’ve never handled before, and a lot of being in positions you’ve only seen on TV. It’s unfamiliar. It’s awkward. It’s not automatically magical. It’s simply…the first time. That’s it. And that’s totally fine! As Jake the Dog from Adventure Time puts it, “Sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.”
As long as you keep your expectations realistic, you’ll get better at it over time. Just like any other skill.
Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about…
We’re squeamish as a society about sex and that does nobody any favors. There’s a strange idea that if we don’t talk about it–except to tell kids and young adults not to do it–then everything will just magically work out okay. Somehow. This is especially true around Christian communities for some odd reason. Just tell kids to be abstinent and neglect to teach them about all the other dimensions around sex and this will bring them closer to God, who will reward them for their purity.
What’s disturbing is that this sends conflicting messages to children. Teaching them about the supposed value of purity isn’t going to stop them from naturally feeling those urges. If we teach young adults that sex is a dirty thing, how are those same young adults supposed to react when suddenly that cute boy or girl starts making them feel more excited than usual? How are children supposed to handle it when society tells them that sex is “dirty” while simultaneously bombarding them with sexual advertisements? When porn is simply a Google search away? How are they supposed to have the tools to navigate these challenges when all we teach them about sex is simply not to do it?
Also, the idea that teaching kids about sex encourages them to be more sexually active is also complete BS. Teaching young adults how to wear a condom no more encourages them to have sex than teaching them how to wear a seat belt encourages them to crash full-speed into other cars. In truth, abstinence has effectively a higher failure rate than condoms. Even though it sounds good in theory, it doesn’t work well in practice.
Looking back, I’m really thankful that my mom was open to answering any questions I had about sex. If I had questions on my mind or I was confused about something, she was always there for me and she never acted weird or squeamish. She simply talked to me about it as if she were talking to me about any other topic. Back then, I didn’t think much about the way she handled it. But today as I look back on it, I’m thankful that she was very open about discussing it.
(Also, I never thought that I’d be talking about my mom and sex in the same sentence. You rock Mom!)
Okay. I’ve said a lot. And I’m not asking you to agree with anything I’ve said. Nor am I trying to advocate participating in or withholding from any sort of sexual activity. I simply hope that someday we can live in a society where we can have more open, honest discussions about sex. And if this post helps us take just one teensy-tiny step in that direction then I’ll have accomplished what I’ve set out to do.